Cleveland Indians’ Rotation Hitting Miserable Slump at Worst Possible Time

Minnesota Twins v Cleveland Indians
Jason Miller-Getty Images

A lot of people are freaking out about the Cleveland Indians, particularly regarding how badly they’ve been walloped in the past two games. Me? I’m not too concerned. After all, when you’re pitching against the 1920’s New York Yankees, you’re going to give up runs.

Oh shoot, sorry, I got confused. I read the stats from the last two box scores and automatically assumed Cleveland pitching was getting wrecked by Murderer’s Row. Color me surprised when I saw the tidal wave of runs was actually being generated by the worst team in the American League. OK, never mind, I’m concerned.

Look, I get baseball season is long and teams are always due to slump here and there. This point has been made to me loud and clear. That said, it’s a little difficult for me not to be alarmed at the developments we’re seeing with the Tribe right now.

The Tigers are on an absolute roll, ripping opponents apart left and right as they surge up the standings. In response, Cleveland is getting boat-raced by the Minnesota Twins, thanks in part to a suddenly off-the-rails starting rotation. Remain calm all you’d like, Tribe fans, but there’s no denying the starting pitchers picked a really bad time to go into a funk.

On paper, this week clearly looked like a perfect set up for the Indians. Fresh off a sweep of the Oakland A’s, Cleveland gets a four-game series against the lowly Twins? At home? It wasn’t crazy to assume the team could add some distance between itself and Detroit.

Instead, the Indians have been outscored 22-11 as Minnesota has hit the ball to all corners of the field. Much of the damage, unfortunately, is coming at the hands of Cleveland’s starting pitching. The aspect of the team many see as the reason a deep postseason run is possible has looked beyond shoddy.

Danny Salazar gave up six earned runs on two innings pitched in Monday’s 12-5 loss, eventually getting placed on the DL for elbow inflammation. Carlos Carrasco followed this up by going just 1 1/3 inning farther last night, getting tagged for eight earned. The past two nights have been so bad the Twins were even hitting their outs impressively.

The Indians are now 4-7 against Minnesota (42-64), so the belief that they can right the ship with the remaining two games of this series is surprisingly lofty. In order for this to happen, though, the rotation has to get its act together.

Sure, Salazar and Carrasco don’t represent the entire group of starting pitchers. Therefore, garbage outings from each shouldn’t indicate the whole rotation is crumbling.

At the same time, when you look at the recent performance of every starter, it certainly doesn’t indicate this is a minor issue.

Salazar’s hurt. Carrasco just got spanked. Corey Kluber, though coming off a strong performance this weekend, can’t stay consistent. Trevor Bauer is slumping. Meanwhile, you can’t help but nervously wait for the bloom to fall off the rose for Josh Tomlin.

An argument can be made this funk would be much worse if it was occurring in late September. This wouldn’t be wrong, but the fact it’s coinciding with the Tigers going on a tear doesn’t make things much better. Fresh off dealing for reliever Andrew Miller and telling the league they’re all in, the Indians are instead getting spanked while Detroit looks unstoppable.

Obviously the hope is this will all right itself soon. The Tribe’s starters have looked solid through the majority of the season, so the evidence indicates this slump is the exception to the rule.

It better be, at least. The Indians are built to live and die by their rotation, and right now they’re dying by┬áit. Simply put, if starters continue to struggle, it’s highly unlikely Cleveland can survive it.


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